Love. It’s the foundation of our faith and salvation. It’s because of love that God sent His one and only son to suffer for our sins, providing the gateway to redemption and salvation (John 3:16). Because of love, God was that eager to restore mankind back into His arms, where we were created to be. Love is the greatest commandment – actually, it’s twofold. The absolute greatest commandment is to love God (Matthew 22:36–38). Then the second greatest commandment follows – to love each other (Matthew 22:39).
I have always been one to hold grudges. I’ve always been one to take offense quite quickly. I can remember the details of an offense that happened 10 years ago as if it just happened today. I can recall what was done and said, how it was done and said, etc. Most of all, I can recall the intense anger and hurt it induced. I’ve always been one to internalize, so I wasn’t always good with expressing my thoughts and feelings. Needless to say, rather than working through relational issues, it was far more convenient for me to just cut people off, leaving no room for further hurt or offense. No conversation, no mediation. I just simply disconnected. Of course, rumination kept the cycle of resentment and anger in full motion. When I examined this attitude and behavior through the truth of God’s word, I realized that I was in agreement with darkness through disobedience, and in the great danger of sin. This is greatly displeasing to God, and should in no way ever be taken lightly (Romans 6:23).
If we don’t forgive others, God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14–15). Yikes. If we claim to love God but hate someone…well…we actually don’t love God (1 John 4:20–21). Again, yikes. God’s requirement for us to love is nonnegotiable, and I think that’s because God continuously pours out so much of His love on us through His immeasurable grace and mercy. Christ is available to all (no one exempt), and when we except Him into our hearts, He fills us with His Holy Spirit. How sweet! He literally abides in us, helping us to walk in the obedience of His ways. In fact, love is the first stated fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, this tells us that love is a choice we are more than capable of making. Simply put, we can make the choice to love and forgive others because God has extended immense love and forgiveness to us. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
Because I know me, I have to make the daily decision of drawing closer to God through prayer, worship, and His word. He’s the only, and I mean the only way I can walk in the love He has called me to walk in. Again, I have always been one to hold grudges. Letting go and forgiving does not come naturally for me. It just doesn’t. Unfortunately, I am a pro at harboring anger, but this isn’t God’s way. It is quite displeasing to Him. So, I must start my day with prayer and worship and I must make the daily decision to choose what is right and pleasing to Him. Lately during my morning prayer, I have been verbally committing to the Lord, “I choose love. I choose forgiveness. I choose joy. I choose grace.” When I commit myself to these things before God, I’m being proactive. So if someone ticks me off (which will happen throughout life), my heart and mind are already set to choose God’s approach. This not only helps me to treat people better, but it also helps me to feel better. Above all, it pleases God and keeps me focused on Him, which keeps me in peace (Isaiah 26:3).
When I think about God’s grace, my heart warms. There have been times when I have willfully sinned, and yet received a blessing instead of punishment. Now I need to make a strong disclaimer here!!! I am in no way implying that God rewards sin. He does not!!! I am, however, emphasizing how God has spared me from the wrath and punishment I deserved. His kindness and patience is meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4). In other words, there’s something heartwarming about being spared from the punishment we deserve, and it makes me want to do better. It brings deep conviction, making me want to turn from any and everything that offends and grieves Him. God deeply loves us, and He wants us to come closer to Him. He wants more than just religious routine. God wants a relationship. So, He lavishes us with so many amazing gifts, like His love, grace, and mercy. Because we are also called to give, He expects (and helps) us to extend these gifts to one another. They are truly gifts that keep giving.
When someone wrongs me, I remember that I have wronged others in the past. I remember that I also have flaws just like anyone else. I remember that I cannot judge or hold anything against anyone, because God is not holding my sins against me. I think about how God loves me unconditionally, and He gives me the ability to love others because He loves me. His grace spares me from the punishment I deserve, so I can spare others instead of holding their wrongs against them. At the end of the day, we all need room for err. Grace helps me to keep my eye on the beauty in others. Grace helps me to look past flaws. Love drives me to embrace the beauty in others because God embraces the beauty in me. Of course the temptation to steep in anger and resentment arises from time to time. But I am training myself not to yield to it. I choose to reflect upon and extend the gifts that keep giving, which enrich my peace and joy.